30 CommentsSword Art Online / By Inushinde /

Sword Art Online Episode 11: Do Little Girls Dream of MMOs?

 

It doesn’t bode well for a show’s development when the most apt way I could describe the relationship between the lead characters is “like Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman in the Star Wars prequels, but with severe mental impairments and the likability of Nazi mosquitoes.” The only things separating these two from their counterparts in a galaxy far, far away is the rapid decrease in emotional investment, and a child who shares the name and the mental capacity of a certain K-On character. Hell, Kirito’s loss and sudden recovery of his hand isn’t even all that different from Hayden “my acting sparks with the intensity of a damp chunk of drywall” Christensen’s amputation. Anyway, on to discussing the actual episode, which has a slew of other problems.

But there’s a bigger issue than Kirito and Asuna having the chemistry of two mud bricks, and that’s the fact that Sword Art Online seems to have no fucking idea what kind of conflict it wants. While I can imagine that the Knights of the Blood Oath aren’t completely gone as a threat, it’s a little counterintuitive to have an episode where Kirito is forcibly inducted, then have him able to leave in the next after what I presume to be a sizable time skip.

Maybe it’s something that worked better in text or maybe more than a few scenes were left in developmental limbo, but going from forcible guild induction to a peaceful honeymoon by a lake (not doing wonders for disproving the Revenge of the Sith comparison, SAO), is pretty damn jarring.It would be fine if Kirito and Asuna got on with any kind of believability, but I’ve already established my stance on that issue, that the two have gone from getting together to virtual marriage in apparently the same amount of time that it’d take an amoeba to asexually reproduce. It’s not unheard of or even improbable, but it still isn’t all that compelling a romance.

The entire first half of the episode was so damn saccharine that I spent the whole time steeling myself for the ensuing fallout, abiding by the rule that if one half of a story has no recognizable conflict, then the second half must have the entirety of the Mongol horde descend upon the main character, pillaging their town and sowing the fields with salt. After all, the first rule of compensatory storytelling denotes that what goes up must crash and burn in an overly dramatic fashion, preferably with a sweeping film score.

But even that doesn’t happen; instead, Kirito and Asuna adopt a girl that they find in the depths of a forest and spend more time doing fuck all of relevance, feeding her spicy food and whatnot. The relationship between the three doesn’t feel like anything that reasonable people would have, just more of a vehicle for blatant wish fulfillment. Hell, it gives off the impression that the author only knows about romance and family from watching Key anime (and the Star Wars prequels), which is far sadder than it sounds.

There is conflict by the end, but it’s nothing but Asuna and Kirito defending kids from stock villains in an irrelevant and pointless fight, and Yui screaming really loudly for no reason before fainting, which I’m sure will be explained away in the next episode, but left residual feelings of confusion instead of anticipation. When a show’s somehow more boring with an actual struggle, something went wrong way down the line. This is the first time watching an episode where I’ve been actually bored, not just looking for nits to pick in an otherwise decent package. I remember that I bitched before about how I wanted there to be an actual, engrossing story. Now that this is apparently it, I kind of long for those carefree days again.

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30 Comments

  1. Posted September 17, 2012 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    Tch, I for one believe that this episode was an attack on traditional gender roles and marriage as a whole. Notice how after Asuna and Kirito get married, Asuna starts to dress like she’s forty. Clearly her fugly yellow sweater is a metaphor for the rigors of married life and the loss of youth which comes with it.

    • fathomlessblue
      Posted September 17, 2012 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      Warning! Online marriage may result in bad Spice & Wolf cosplay.

    • eternia
      Posted September 17, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      That sweater is really fugly. Is she forty? Oh, the dreadfulness of marriage, lol. Also, why the hell Gary Stu is not allowed to turn around? It’s just your thighs. He have seen every inch of your body when you fucked. This tsundere is making too much sense!

  2. Mr.RR
    Posted September 17, 2012 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Just to be fair when he lost his hand, it showed as a status condition which are curable.

    Otherwise the new girl is probably a virus or program of sorts. She has no memory, she acts child-like(as if she was just born), she causes a glitch like event. To top it all off she isn’t behaving like a player (no player indicator), but she also isn’t behaving like an NPC (she has no leash to keep her in her area)

    • Posted September 17, 2012 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      It still sucks that losing a hand is just a transitory status effect in the first place. Why give it all the attention of a dramatic slowdown, zoom, and musical cue if it’s as commonplace as any other type of wound? The whole scene was staged as if Kirito really lost his hand for good, complete with the shatter effect associated with things permanently dying, yet all was well in the next scene; completely inconsequential.

      If it’s not actually an important detail at all, why play it up like one? If there’s no actual danger there’s no dramatic tension. You can’t have one without the other.

    • Mr.RR
      Posted September 17, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      I do agree I thought that he sacrificed his neat ability for someone he cared about type thing, but then I noticed the status ailment and it is kinda dumb. I totally agree with that.

      I think that first comment was me just getting at that his hand didn’t grow back from nothing, it was due to game mechanics. Which they probably already knew but I guess I just had to say it.

      • Posted September 17, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

        Oh don’t mind my raving; I’m just embittered after years of this sort of unintentional dramatic trolling from anime.

        I hate when something interesting happens that makes you sit up and go “Oh. That could be really-” and then it’s a fakeout. Just kidding! We’re going with the boring option. Back to the status quo.

        It’s Blood+ all over again: Start with something gripping, stylish, and unique for the first two minutes, then abandon ship! Never go back! Now that we’ve roped them in, hit ‘em with generic (bi)shounen drudgery series #52041!

      • Mr. Anon
        Posted September 21, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink

        Yeah this happens way too much in anime in general. Oh, so you thought we actually had something dramatic or meaningful happen? Ahahahaha oh you, no we’ll just press the reset button next episode.

        I’m not even sure what kind of author would think this is a good idea.

  3. Someguy
    Posted September 17, 2012 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    While the other episodes certainly were not perfect, they were at least entertaining. This one was downright offending. I mean, you know an episode is bad when you keep checking every 30 seconds to see how much time is left till it ends.
    Also, why must everyone dislike the prequels so much?

    • Posted September 17, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

      This is the first time that I checked the time to see how much longer I had to sit through it. I mean hell, I give this show a ton of flak, but it has its moments; this was just certainly not one of them.

      As for the prequel thing, in all honesty I enjoy the last two, they’re just riddled with enough plot holes to sink a ship, and the relationship between Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen is laughable the vast majority of the time.

    • Billish
      Posted September 17, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

      The dialog is like listening to two autistic kids discuss politics. Episode 3 is BRUTAL

      • Inushinde
        Posted September 19, 2012 at 6:46 am | Permalink

        It’s way more tedious than it has any right to be. Never thought something could fall so fast.

  4. Clarste
    Posted September 17, 2012 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    I don’t think there’s a timeskip between the episodes. They decided to take a break at the end of last episode, and the beginning of this episode has them asking for permission. And it’s granted. Why? Because one of the members of the guild just tried to frickin’ kill them. It’s a good reason to leave, and a good reason for the guildmaster not to be stubborn about it. Because one of the members just tried to frickin’ kill them. I assume that’s what they were reporting about.

    • Posted September 17, 2012 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      If they have the agency to take a leave of absence at any time, why didn’t Asuna just insist in the first place? Does the guild own her? Why can’t she just quit? It would be nice to know these things.

      As an aside, it doesn’t even make sense that Kirito got involved in that duel. It’s her employer and her decision to take a vacation. Why does that personal dispute get decided by other people while she stands by and watches it happen without any input?

      • blackice85
        Posted September 17, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

        That’s what I was wondering about before myself. If she wants to party up with Kirito or quit or whatever, what business is it of theirs? It just felt like a weird excuse to get them to fight.

        I kind of want to read the light novels because I’m starting to think there are reasons to these unanswered questions, but they’re just not being explained very well or at all.

      • Aftiel
        Posted September 18, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

        Honestly Heathcliff didn’t give a damn about Asuna taking a break, he pretty much just used it as an excuse to get Kirito to agree to the duel.

        For a long time prior to Kirito revealing dual blades, Heathcliff had been the only person in the game known to have a unique skill. So the main reason Heathcliff wanted to fight was to see who had the superior unique skill. And if at the same time he could rope Kirito into his guild, what better way to make the strongest guild even stronger?

      • Posted September 19, 2012 at 5:46 am | Permalink

        As a transparent excuse, why would they ever agree to it? It still doesn’t really change the fact that:

        -Asuna should be able to take a leave of absence, or just quit if this perfectly reasonable request is denied. It’s a guild, not the Luftwaffe. (and if it’s the Luftwaffe, that’s information we should have!)

        -Neither Kirito or Asuna have any reason to accept his proposal or follow through. They already have the option of just ignoring him and eloping. If they win the duel they gain nothing, and if they lose then Kirito gets conscripted against his will.

        -It’s Asuna’s right to leave that’s being contested by her own guild, yet she has no say in the matter. It doesn’t matter what Heathcliff’s motives are – it’s still a travesty of logic and fairness that should offend her and Kirito. If this shit can fly, what’s to stop Heathcliff from dictating “I won’t allow you to take a vacation unless this passing squirrel can best me in a duel!”?

        There are dozens of better ways to spin this:

        -A trade. Heathcliff won’t let Asuna leave, she protests, all three of them have a talk, Kirito joins the guild in exchange for their leave of absence. They have an inaugural duel to test his strength.

        -They just have a duel. “Hey, I could help make your vacation go over smoothly with the guild, but I’ll need some convincing. How about a duel?”. Kirito joins the guild later for other reasons, among them the fact that it looks like Heathcliff helped him out.

        -A contest that makes sense. Asuna duels him for the right to take a vacation. She loses. Kirito appeals to Heathcliff to reconsider and he gives Kirito the same offer. Kirito loses.

  5. Fran
    Posted September 17, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    this episode was extremely boring and dumb

    I like SAO when it’s the main plot, but this side stories are stupid

  6. Noname
    Posted September 17, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    I truly pity you for blogging this show. After the last episode I concluded that SAO is going downhill and dropped it. You have my condolences for having to blog this show.

  7. cyp
    Posted September 17, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    well… it was a strange episode. I do not know if they had sex or not… if this is true, and it probably is then eternia you are correct, but there are people that have this issue, even after. Also about the new girl I found out what she is, but I do not want to ruin it from you. Guessing is soooo much fun. About the sweater I simply believe that level has a spring\autumn weather so wearing somthing thicker is normal. About the side story… well this is the main story, the whole anime revolves around the strange “love” story between the two. Oh and the leader of the guild though maybe he should chill a bit since he almost got them frickin’ killed.

    • eternia
      Posted September 17, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      They had sex. I don’t understand why some people still doubted it. In the LN volume 1, Gary Stu has questioned his woman, why did she misunderstand him asking for spending the night together as having sex? She explained to him that having sex is possible in this game to begin with, because there’s an option to turn Ethic Code off in the game menu. Unlike the raunchy sex chapter 16.5, which only available in Kawahara’s website, this talk is present in the official published novel. With the ethic code turned off, other player are allowed to do ‘things’ to you without alarming the game system. How thoughtful of the game creator…

      • Posted September 17, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

        Without that context I can certainly see how you’d make the mistake. Since the last thing anime watchers saw him do is stick his foot in his mouth and receive a typical beating, it looked a lot like Kirito bafflingly sabotaged a potential night with his girlfriend. To me his reaction pretty much came across as:

        “Wait – have s-sex? With a girl?! Gross!

        This, of course, is no impetus upon his decision to get married an hour later. Where do they think children come from? Thin air?

        Oh… Oh right.

      • Anca
        Posted September 17, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

        Him looking at her sleeping naked form wasn’t a giveaway?

      • elior1
        Posted September 18, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

        they did this side story right now becouse this girl will play very big role later in the main plot episodes so there nothing to do with it since she going to be part of the main plot. also do you already have a guess what this girl realy is?

      • Mr. Anon
        Posted September 21, 2012 at 9:21 am | Permalink

        Probably an AI of some sort.

  8. Adrian
    Posted September 17, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Ok, this episode was all about Kirito, Asuna and the girl who I don’t give a shit about playing house. Even if he watched Key anime, he might as well have learned nothing from it. Heck, what the hell is the author thinking? He tries to do a drama, a wish- fulfillment romance, a harem, a mistery, and now he ventures into family bonds. The plot has no direction at all.

    If laughing is good for health, ranting may be even better. It will be a long journey, but don’t sweat it. The readers are with you on this one.

  9. Mr. Anon
    Posted September 17, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    With time skips between pretty much every episode, and significant off-screen things happening in between, the whole show feels like a montage.

    I do enjoy the show a lot (the art is nice, the setting and characters are fun, that’s pretty much all I need), but it has extraordinarily poor pacing and narrative structure.

  10. elior1
    Posted September 18, 2012 at 12:00 am | Permalink

    @Permalink they did this side story right now becouse this girl will play very big role later in the main plot episodes so there nothing to do with it since she going to be part of the main plot. also do you already have a guess what this girl realy is?

  11. elior1
    Posted September 19, 2012 at 11:14 am | Permalink
    • Arbee
      Posted September 21, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

      By the end of the clip I was hoping Asuna takes Kirito as hostage… I mean, look at that position and tell me that it does not look like something sinister’s gonna happen. XD

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